World #10 Jelena Ostapenko arrived at the US Open fresh from a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon and is surely full of confidence. She will also no doubt be eager to claim her second Grand Slam title after her memorable French Open triumph last year. Standing between her and the third round is Taylor Townsend of the USA, the world #73, who reached a career-high of #61. Who will come out on top?
These two young women have thus far had fairly different career paths, and this will be their first Tour-level match. At the US Open, each has struggled in the past; Townsend in particular, having never won a match before this year. Ostapenko made it through to the third round last year, but compared to her other Grand Slam appearances - she has won the French Open and made a quarterfinal and a semifinal at Wimbledon - she has disappointed at Flushing Meadows.
Path to the second round
Ostapenko only just managed to advance through to the second round after a long and gruelling encounter against world #89 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, once ranked as high as 9th in the world. The two traded the first two sets 6-4 apiece in around 40 minutes each, before heading to a final set which would last for over an hour. Eventually, Ostapenko broke through to win it, earning herself a 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory.
Townsend had a similarly tough match against fellow American Amanda Anismova. Anismova, still just 16-years-old, looks to have an extremely bright future and took the match to Townsend from the off. The 16-year-old won the first set 6-3, but Townsend fought back and the teenager’s legs looked to be growing increasingly heavy as the match wore on. Townsend completed the comeback to win the match 3-6 6-4 6-3 in a little over two hours.
How do they match up?
Ostapenko is renowned for her aggressive game style. She hits a lot of winners, regularly forcing opponents deep and wide with her heavy groundstrokes off both wings before finishing them off in one fell swoop. Indeed, such is the force of her groundstrokes that she has outhit the best players' on the ATP Tour at some tournaments in terms of average groundstroke speed. Her serve, however, can fail her at times.
She would do well to maintain that aggression against Townsend, a player who comes to the net with regularity. Townsend is an old-school player, often using the serve-and-volley, and with her soft hands and quick reflexes is dangerous at the net. She may be pushed deep by Ostapenko, but expect her to come forward whenever she sees an opportunity to do so. Indeed, reaching the net will be vital for her, for she is unlikely to have much success from the baseline.
This will be an intriguing match to watch between two players with vastly different styles. But Townsend, for all her quality, has yet to prove herself capable of matching it with the best in the world. Ostapenko has proven herself to be just that. The Latvian should be too strong in this one, and expect her to advance through to the third round at the US Open for the second time with a straight sets win.